In the coming days, I’ll be identifying a few remaining defencemen of whom the Toronto Maple Leafs could target for cheap depth.
Yesterday’s contestant, Tobias Enstrom, may have been a poor example to begin with. As of now, Enstrom appears to be the best option still out there.
Two days in and we’re at the bottom of the barrel. I told you this pool is bleak.
Brandon Davidson, however, is an interesting case study. If offensive production is of need, his career high of 11 points is unlikely to whet anyone’s whistle. Although, in respect to the Leafs, offensive production from the blueline happens to be an area they already have covered.
Adding another backend scorer certainly wouldn’t hurt. But, it’s far from a top priority.
Rather, what Davidson projects to add is depth. Such is the best possible outcome for the bulk of mid-summer additions. You simply cannot dive into this current UFA pool and emerge with an upgrade. Settling for back-end depth at a devastatingly low price is the most any team can hope for.
So, why not?
At 26-years-old, it would be fair to assume that we are currently witnessing peak Davidson. Although, the quasi-veteran may have more left to offer.
Debuting back in 2014-15, Davidson’s career high in games played sits at 51. A mark he’s reached twice, in both 2015-16 and this past season. As expected, those campaigns serve as Davidson’s most productive at the NHL level.
The Davidson from 2015-16, in particular, demonstrated real promise, establishing career offensive bests across the board, which stand to this day. Logging over 19 minutes a night in the process, he evolved into a valuable piece of Edmonton’s D corps.
Not even a brief dip into his advanced numbers from that season reveals many blemishes. Davidson’s CF/60 rounded out to a sterling 52.1%, with the bulk of his production – 8 of 11 total points – coming at even strength.
Life was good. Until he was traded.
On the Move
Dealt to the Habs a mere 28 games into the 2016-17 season, Davidson proceeded to bounce around the league ever since.
Following his 23-game stint with Montreal, split across two seasons, Davidson was then shipped back to Edmonton for a second stop in Oil Country. Ultimately, his return produced a similar outcome. Lasting just 23 games, the newly crowned journeyman soon found himself en route to Long Island, falling victim to the trade deadline.
For those keeping score at home, that’s 4 separate moves packed tightly into a 2-season span, 3 of which coming in 2017-18 alone. Suddenly, his production makes more sense.
That level of movement is enough to hamper even the league’s top performers.
Suiting up for a trio of franchises actually does Davidson’s production from 2017-18 some favours.
Faced with the hurdle of adjusting to a myriad of different systems, he still emerged from a rocky year as a positive possession player at even strength. Coupled with a CF/60 of 50.6%, Davidson managed to perform reasonably well relative to his teammates. His corsi rel% rounding out at 0.3.
It’s when sifting through his impact on individual teammates where the numbers tell a different story. Albeit, while lacking some required context.
Davidson’s brief time as an Islander is what finally gave him a consistent partner. Logging a total of 165:28 alongside Adam Pelech, the pair put up respectable even strength production, topping out at a cumulative CF% of 50.67.
When separated, the numbers shed their lustre.
Davidson struggled mightily in driving possession during minutes away from Pelech. Managing a dismal 41.60%, Pelech’s dip was far less dramatic, falling only slightly to 48.95%.
While these results seem to paint Davidson as a possession anchor on anyone sharing the ice with him, that would be an inaccurate assessment. Rather, Davidson’s production reads as a testament to a player repeatedly denied any situational consistency.
That his most common stretch of ice time with a single individual occurred during a 15-game stint speaks volumes.
The last time Davidson was afforded any semblance of stability was back in 2015-16. As expected, his impact on those around him is far more flattering.
When separated from Eric Gryba, his most common running mate, Davidson produced a CF of 49.17% to Gryba’s 48.45%. In fact, 6 of the 7 defenders who logged a minimum of 30 minutes alongside Davidson saw their numbers dip when paired away from him.
While this only hints at Davidson having more to give in the right circumstances, it’s a bet most teams would be wise to place.
Like Enstrom, Davidson is a left shot. With that side of blueline clogged at the moment, a defined position in the lineup sits out of reach.
Although, that may be for the best. Entering the year with an unknown like Davidson in your top-6 is not a successful recipe.
Depth is all the Leafs can hope to glean from these UFA’s crop, exactly what Davidson could bring. Allowing ample time to familiarize himself with Toronto’s various systems and personnel may afford him the situational consistency he so desperately needs. Then, in the event of an injury, there are certainly worse replacement options littering the league.
Not to mention, were he to return to the level of his sophomore form, the rest is gravy.
Thanks for reading!
Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com & hockeyreference.com